This morning, my son Leif stumbled bleary-eyed from his bedroom and the first thing he said was, “Dadda, if I had one more forest manna I would’ve totally smoked you last night.” He’s eight. And I wonder, just because I love Magic (and Arduino…and solar hovercrafts…) and am excited to play with my kids, am I pushing too much geeky games and making activities, too soon?
I know I’ve been guilty in the past. Last year was too soon for Narnia. Epic fail. I found myself promising chocolate chips so that my kids would let me read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to them in bed at night. (Leif: “Dadda, my eyes are tired. Can I please go to sleep now?” Me: “Sorry, kid — we have to see if Aslan can rescue Tumnus.”) Not only does that kind of shenanigan decrease enjoyment but it also increases dental bills.
I’m itching to read Lord of the Rings. I can’t wait to code turtle art in LOGO. And species counterpoint? Sheesh, don’t even get me started.
But what I wonder is this: is turning on Neverending Story while building Estes rockets any different than the parent who holds their child back in kindergarten so he (or she) will be the biggest kid on the football team? Or the moms on Toddlers in Tiaras? Or the parents I saw in the late 1990s who toted along kids to the notoriously smoke-filled Oregon Country Fair?
The line can’t just be a kid’s enjoyment, can it? I mean, Leif is over the moon about Magic, but I imagine he would’ve been similarly over the moon had I introduced the game (or let him find it) at age 10 when he knew better how to Vampiric Tutor the right card to the top of his library.
More generally, we necessarily sculpt our kids in our own image, but what’s the line between a parent’s wishes for their child and the kid’s best interest? I’m sorry I don’t have answers. But I’d love to hear yours.